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Mantouvalos v. Mantouvalos

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

January 2, 2020

Stephanie Mantouvalos, Plaintiff,
v.
Diane Mantouvalos and Paula Mantouvalos, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          NATHANIEL M. GORTON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This case involves an interminable dispute between three sisters, Stephanie, Diane and Paula Mantouvalos, over the sale of inherited property located at Othos Orfeos 31, Holargos, Greece (“the property”).

         On January 11, 2017, this Court entered default judgment against defendant Paula Mantouvalos (“Paula”) and ordered her to convey to Stephanie Mantouvalos (“Stephanie” or “plaintiff”) full power of attorney and authority to sell the property. Paula has not complied with that order and Stephanie has filed a motion to hold Paula in contempt of court and for enforcement of the default judgment.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will decline to hold Paula in contempt but will enforce its order and, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 70(a), authorize Stephanie to sell the property.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         The sisters inherited the disputed property when their father died in October, 2005. In June, 2006, the sisters signed a Settlement Agreement which was filed in an earlier case in another session of this Court. The Settlement Agreement states:

The property located in Greece shall be sold as soon as possible and listed with a licensed broker.

         After nearly a decade of inaction, Stephanie, whose domicile is Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, filed a complaint in this Court in January, 2014, alleging breach of contract on the grounds that her sisters had breached the Settlement Agreement and their covenants of good faith and fair dealing by refusing to cooperate with respect to the sale of the property. In November of that year, the property was valued at approximately $464, 000.

         Diane Mantouvalos (“Diane”), whose domicile is Miami, Florida, did not respond to the complaint and, in April, 2015, the Court entered a final default judgment against her. That judgment includes injunctive relief ordering Diane, inter alia, to cooperate with her sisters in the sale of the property and to pay one-third of the costs related to the sale of the property. Diane's cooperation has been sporadic and, according to Stephanie, is currently not in compliance with this Court's 2015 order.

         Paula, whose domicile is in Massachusetts, but whose address is unknown to her sisters, answered the complaint in April, 2014. Since that time she has failed to comply with any court-imposed deadlines. In fact, no pleadings had been filed on Paula's behalf after her answer to the complaint until her counsel moved to withdraw in May, 2016, based on a “severe breakdown in the attorney-client relationship”, i.e. a failure to communicate.

         The Court convened a status conference in June, 2016, at which Paula's counsel, Attorney Paul Marino (“Attorney Marino”), stated that he had attempted to locate Paula multiple times but had only been able to speak to her one week before the hearing. Paula, who attended the conference by telephone, stated that she had recently moved and that there was a miscommunication between her and her attorneys.

         On June 15, 2016, this Court ordered Paula to show cause why the Court should not enter a default judgment against her. Her response to that order was inadequate and, on January 11, 2017, this Court entered default judgement against Paula. It ordered Paula to cooperate with Stephanie and Diane to effectuate the sale of the property and to perform all acts necessary to accomplish such a sale, including conveyance to Stephanie of full power of attorney and authority to sell the property.

         In January, 2019, Attorney Marino (and his partner Robert Launie) renewed their motions to withdraw, reiterating a breakdown in the attorney-client relationship and an inability to communicate with Paula.

         In March, 2019, Stephanie filed the instant motion to hold Paula in contempt and for other relief as a result of Paula's failure to ...


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